kindom musings

Thoughts and musings from a pastor in the peace tradition. Perspectives come from a progressive, justice-minded, feminist position. Responses are welcome.

Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, United States

I am a Church of the Brethren pastor in my thirties. While I love what I do, I started out with plans to be a veterinarian. God has a great sense of humor, and I wound up in ministry instead. However, my sojourn into veterinary science did make me a vegetarian with a love of animals. (We have two cats and a dog at home -- only a small petting zoo!) My husband is also ordained, and we have a son (LB) and a daughter (KB). My husband keeps me up to date on baseball trivia, and my children keep me giggling. All in all, it makes for a well-rounded life. I was born in Pennsylvania, moved several times for school and work, and have recently returned to my home state. On the Myers-Briggs scale, I'm an INFP.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Amazing generosity

I was at the 30th Annual Brethren Disaster Relief Auction today, the first I've been able to attend in about a decade. It's an amazing experience, bringing together about 10,000 (mostly) Brethren of all theological, social, and experiencial backgrounds. All proceeds from the auction of quilts and other handmade or donated items goes to disaster relief, and those who attend become some of the most generous people I have ever encountered. The morning began with helping to put together health kits for Church World Service. Last year, they put together over 10, 000 kits, and I suspect the results are even higher this year. I stopped to help for a few minutes and stayed for about an hour, packing items for basic health and hygience into gallon-sized ziploc bags, and later pushing full boxes to the loading area. In the process I saw very conservatively dressed Brethren (possibly Amish -- they used straight pins to fasten clothing rather than buttons, and the bonnets they wore could have been Amish) worked alongside folks like me dressed in jeans with my hair loose. Under my sweatshirt I wore a t-shirt proclaiming that all are welcome in the church (including gasp.. groups in the church that call for all to have a voice, woman's equality, and full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons). It probably would have offended some people, and this was not a place where I wanted to get into a theological debate. Why I chose to wear it in the first place I'll only chalk up to being tired when I got dressed this morning. Anyway, the point is that in spite of many differences, everyone worked together for a common cause. It was incredible!

Later, I sat in on the auction and heard about a grandfather clock that had been made by someone who had recently been the recipient of a pancreas transplant. The auctioneer knew the family and shared part of the clockmaker's story. When the bidding ended, the clock went for about $5000 dollars, and the buyer immediately said, "Sell it again." I've seen this before at the auction when buyers will put up a quilt to be bid upon again so it can bring in more money for relief. I was blown away today when the clock was sold five times, for a total of $25000. Even the primary auctioneer, who has been doing this for years, broke down in the midst of one of the sales and had to have someone take over. After the final selling of the clock, the auctioneer led us in singing "How great thou art" on the spur of the moment, and while few besides the leader knew more than the chorus after the first of second verse, there was an indescribable sense of common spirit and the Holy Spirit in the room. Powerful.

That spirit was carried to a ridiculous degree when a commemorative plate sold the evening before had broken and been left behind. The auctioneers decided to sell it, and the four pieces went for $50, and that buyer also said to sell it again. The plate went three times at about $50 each time.

No politics, no weighty decisions, no haggling over little points of law. The auction was simply a matter of sisters and brothers joining together for a common purpose. I'm not one to visibly cry very often, but when I looked up in the conference hall of the auction and saw a banner simply stating, "For the glory of God," I felt tears in my eyes. To borrow a phrase from a friend, I believe "Jesus was smiling."


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